The waiting times for the iPhone 14 series from Apple Inc. rising to what analysts say are record highs.
The waiting times for the iPhone 14 series from Apple Inc. are rising to what analysts say are record levels as the holiday shopping season kicks off, threatening to curb sales at the busiest time of the year and derail a stock rally.
US customers who placed an order on Tuesday would receive an iPhone 14 Pro in New York on December 30 after Christmas, according to Apple’s website. The wait was about 34 days from last week, almost the highest ever, according to UBS Group AG.
The delays, due to Covid lockdowns around a Chinese factory run by a contract manufacturer of iPhones, could lead analysts to lower their earnings estimates for this quarter, which accounts for 35% to 40% of iPhone unit sales, adjust. That, in turn, could further depress Apple’s stock price, which has been a relative refuge in this year’s tech crisis.
I’m not sure which one
“This could create further headwinds for Apple,” said Matt Maley, chief market strategist at Miller Tabak + Co. Consumer finances are under pressure from rising food and energy prices, which will “almost certainly cause consumers to pull in their horns after the holiday season. If that’s the case, it’s going to be hard for Apple to recover the lost make up for Christmas sales next year.”
An Apple spokesperson said he had no immediate comment on the wait times.
If wait times don’t improve in the coming weeks, unit sales could miss estimates, leaving iPhone sales flat year-over-year instead of rising about 2% as expected by analysts, according to UBS’s David Vogt.
Jefferies analyst Kyle McNealy assumes about three weeks of disruption and estimates that each week of lockdown will save $1 billion in sales and 1 cent in earnings per share. Amit Daryanani of Evercore ISI estimates that this could push about $3 billion in iPhone revenue into the March quarter.
For bulls, that might be the best outcome. “We don’t believe these will necessarily be lost orders,” said Mark Stoeckle, CEO of Adams Funds. “We think they are deferred orders.”
The disruptions forced Apple to issue a rare update just 10 days after the Cupertino, California-based company reported its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings in late October. It said shipments of the new premium iPhones will be lower than expected due to the lockdowns.
The timing couldn’t have been worse for Apple.
The stock is up 9.7% since a Nov. 10 report showed that US consumer inflation was cooling somewhat. That sparked a rally in tech stocks as investors believed the Federal Reserve could slow the pace of rate hikes soon. Apple, which had already impressed Wall Street with its earnings, added $191 billion to its market capitalization in a single session, the highest ever by a US company.
“Apple still offers security compared to the other names,” said Lewis Grant, senior portfolio manager at Federated Hermes Ltd. Grant said he takes comfort in the fact that Apple isn’t completely dependent on hardware, as the company can tap into a stream of recurring revenue from subscriptions to services like Apple Music and Apple Arcade for video games.
Analysts have cut their average Apple revenue expectation for this quarter by 1.7% over the past three months, compared to cuts of 2.6% to 6.5% at industry peers like Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
While the iPhone remains the cash cow for the company, the company is looking to expand sales elsewhere. To boost sales of Macs, Apple launched a rare promotional deal for small businesses that buy computers in bulk, an attempt to cope with a slowdown during the holiday quarter.
“As long as the issues are supply related, it’s OK, it’s manageable,” said Alec Young, chief investment strategist at MAPsignals. “If there is any hint of declining demand, I think the stock price would be much more vulnerable. The market tends to look ahead. So it is much more susceptible to demand destruction given all the recession concerns.”